Feb 2, 2022 - World

Disaster-hit Tonga enters first-ever pandemic lockdown

The HMAS Adelaide is docked at Nuku'alofa, Tonga, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, after carrying disaster relief and humanitarian aid supplies.

The HMAS Adelaide, docked at Nuku'alofa, Tonga, carries disaster relief and humanitarian aid supplies in response to the January volcanic eruption and tsunami. Photo: POIS Christopher Szumlanski/Australian Defense Force via AP

Tonga locked down Wednesday after two COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Nuku’alofa, the capital of the Pacific island nation that's still reeling from last month's deadly volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Why it matters: The country entered its first pandemic lockdown having only previously recorded one coronavirus infection. Communications have yet to be fully restored and businesses and homes still have no internet following the Jan. 15 disaster, per local newspaper Matangi Tonga.

Driving the news: Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said Tuesday two wharf workers who'd been helping distribute aid from ships had tested positive, the Matangi Tonga reports.

  • New pandemic measures include school and border closures and bans on large gatherings and inter-island travel, Sovaleni said.
  • Officials were working to determine the outbreak's source and examining "the record of ships that had been here at a time that could have spread this virus," Sovaleni added.

The big picture: There was a COVID-19 outbreak on an Australian aid ship bound for Tonga last month. Officials later said the HMAS Adelaide's "contactless delivery" had been successful.

  • The ship has been "stranded at Nuku’alofa since last week" due to a power outage, the New York Times notes.

Go deeper: Satellite images reveal Tonga eruption damage

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